Public access to Indian Creek Trail in Madison County has been upheld after U.S. District Court Judge Sam Haddon issued an order on Monday finding that the Forest Service possesses a prescriptive easement across the Wonder Ranch’s property.
The dispute dates back to 2011 when the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest placed a claim on Wonder Ranch’s deed after ranch owners put up a sign declaring use of the route was by permission only. The owners of the ranch are identified in court documents as Chris Hudson and Eugenia (Hudson) King.
In 2014 the owners of Wonder Ranch sued the Forest Service. The United States counter-sued, claiming that a prescriptive easement had been established through decades of stock, recreation and commercial use.
The dispute culminated in an eight-day trial that ended in August, but Judge Haddon didn’t issue his ruling until after touring the site earlier this month.
“The Hudsons' cordial temperament toward trail users does not establish some kind of implied permission,” the ruling stated.